Helping Students with Brain-based Interventions

Since Lakeside Educational Network works with a significant population of students who struggle academically and personally, our staff regard these students’ needs and capabilities from a unique perspective. We have observed some students do not respond cognitively to typical communication and consequences, such as a rewards and growth level system common among therapeutic schools. Therefore, to meet needs of those students struggling to succeed in their regular school, it is important to recognize even our programs require other strategies to help students to access the cognitive part of their brains.

Pioneering interventions from Dr. Bruce Perry and the Child Trauma Academy

In training provided by Dr. Perry, we have come to realize that the brain can be mapped based on what areas have been affected by life-events.
In training provided by Dr. Perry, we have come to realize that the brain can be mapped based on what areas have been affected by life-events and Lakeside implements new strategies in therapeutic education based on this concept.

Lakeside has been extremely fortunate to have the expertise of Dr. Bruce Perry (the Child Trauma Academy) to pioneer some helpful interventions for our students. In training provided by Dr. Perry, we have come to realize that the brain can be mapped based on what areas have been affected by life-events.

As a result of brain mapping, we have learned certain parts of the brain respond to certain interventions that may not be traditional interventions, or even cognitive (talking) in nature. Therefore, if we are talking to a student who primarily thinks with the lower part of the brain, it is probable what we are saying may not be understood as we intended.

What this concept implies is exciting. 

Based on this knowledge, we think that a better way to approach certain students is to help them understand what calms them, brings them clarity and aids them to cope with their circumstances. In fact, we can actually place a wrist heart monitor on them and can evaluate what interventions actually lower their heart rate to provide relief from stressors and issues.

What are these interventions? Well, they can range and change from student to student. However, what we have found is for students living constantly in hypervigilance, a number of sensory stimuli can help. So, this year we are piloting a program for selected students. We will train them how to use some of these interventions to help them work through their day to take ownership of their brain state.

It appears rhythm, rocking, body movement and stimulating of some senses have been documented as helpful to some individuals.

I have previously mentioned we are introducing a variety of music forms within each of our classrooms, made available on mp3 players. We have also introduced a walking track, swings, student rocking chairs, weighted vests and blankets, stress relief squeeze toys, and rubberized chew necklaces. Eventually, we will be bringing in a facility dog.

As we discover the impact of which interventions most helps our students, we will be expanding them across all of our programs. As I stated before, our staff will hold the responsibility to train our students how to use these interventions, but it will be the responsibility of the students to learn how to access them via feedback from the heart monitors.

With these interventions, I believe students will be able to figure out what works for them. A benefit, too, is that they can do so independent of our staff, which allows our staff a brief respite to re-charge and reduce their stress. It allows improved learning capability and new options for how students and staff can manage brain states in a healthy way.

For some students who have unique learning styles and needs, this approach and strategy offers positive implications, as well as applications to schools all over our country. In particular, I think that our inner-city early childhood centers and schools could find this strategy both low-cost and advantageous as they wrestle with ways to help and teach their students.

If in fact these interventions actually help alter brain states by calming and improving cognition, imagine the ways that we can help almost anyone who is stressed, traumatized or struggling with brain incapacities. This could be a huge new way to help those who need options for getting through each day.

Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network

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